- A partnership announced Jan. 27 between University of Houston researchers and energy companies Diamond Offshore Drilling and Baker Hughes aims to build tools that use mindfulness training to improve safety for offshore energy workers.
- Offshore workers participating in the test program will undergo a 30-day training exercise, including two daily exercises, that will train them to focus in the moment on specific job tasks. The exercises will be modified versions of those used to train military personnel and first responders, the university said in a statement.
- Researchers will evaluate the training's success by determining whether the rate of safety-related incidents has decreased, and whether participants' health and sleep improved compared to non-participant employees, per the statement.
The applications of mindfulness training and related programs have seen slow but steady growth in recent years, according to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)'s 2019 Employee Benefits Survey. Last year, 13% of employers in SHRM's survey offered an onsite stress management program, while 11% offered access to a mindfulness or meditation program.
Some researchers have touted the benefits of mindfulness training in combating burnout; one Portland State University professor has said that even taking a few minutes to "mentally reconnect" with work can reduce stress. Fatigue is a particular concern for workers in the offshore energy space, according to Industrial Safety & Hygiene News, due in part to long shifts and requirements that some travel to distant worksites in different time zones than their homes.
Many may view mindfulness as something akin to a yoga class, Christiane Spitzmueller, professor of industrial psychology at the University of Houston, said in the statement. That may not be appealing to some, she said, but through the project, "we are working to reap the benefits around mindfulness while generating mindfulness exercises that work for offshore workers."
Cutting down on employees stress and burnout could help the bottom line for employers across industries. A 2019 Colonial Life study of full-time employees found more than 20% spent at least five hours each week thinking about health-, job- and finance-related stresses during work hours. That could mean employers are losing billions in productivity to stress, Colonial Life said.
As with all wellness programs, however, mindfulness benefits may not see broad use despite their utility for workers. Part of the problem may be that employees feel unable to navigate their benefits or are overwhelmed by choice, experts previously told HR Dive. Employers may be able to drive better utilization in part by offering navigation tools, notifications and different forms of incentives.